Old sins cast long shadows, and Craven Mountain is full of both.
As Tori works to build a list of clientele for the newly reopened Nestled Inn, her plans are thrown for a loop when an infamous hometown personality is murdered. Local gossip keeps the amateur sleuth on her toes as she searches for the truth, but things are further complicated when a new woman in town threatens Tori’s budding relationship with the local vet.
I’ve always liked the book of Ephesians, but felt the nudge of the Lord to read it again, AND to dig in deep and study it. If you want to join me in this study, Come on! 🙂
I started yesterday, and one of the first things I noticed when reading the first couple of chapters aloud was the use of lots of prepositional phrases. The one that stood out to me the most, though, was IN HIM. There were some variations on that phrase— “In Christ Jesus”, “In the Beloved One”, and others. But all of them were in reference to our spiritual “location” and posture in relation to Christ.
This is what I shared with a family member yesterday about this phrasing:
The description of the first recipients of this letter begins with “To the faithful saints in Christ Jesus in Ephesus.” And even though it is written to them, the letter applies to us, as well. But it’s important to note what faithful saints means! I did a little digging into the Greek using the interlinear bible. (That’s such a great resource!) I think it is noteworthy that the words “IN CHRIST JESUS” are the most important words used to describe the readers of this letter–the “faithful saints”…those who are believing, holy, set apart peoples, and who don’t look like the world but rather look like God (using the Greek definitions).
So why does it seem to me that “…In Christ Jesus” is so important? Because as I keep reading, I see that the first three chapters in the translation I’m reading uses the phrase “in Him” over and over again. There are variations like “in Christ” or “in the Beloved One” or “In the Spirit”. I think there are close to 20 repetitions of this phrase! And they all point to the same thing that Christ said in John 15:4-6. The reason the Ephesians are called faithful saints is NOT because they had it all together or were perfect. (That’s not what a saint means in this context.) These people were set apart because of WHERE they dwelt spiritually…IN CHRIST JESUS.
In HIM they found peace…so can we! All of those verses apply to use as well. So here we go: In HIM we have redemption through His blood (1:7). In HIM we have also received an inheritance (1:11). In HIM we were sealed through the promised Holy Spirit upon our hearing of the truth, the gospel of our salvation, and when we believed. In HIM (1:13)!
There are soooo many more verses that continue to wrap us up in this understanding of where we need to be dwelling in order to bear fruit and live in the life (abundant life!) Jesus told us that He came to provide (John 10:10).
I’m rereading the first few sentence today and will be sharing my thoughts on those tomorrow. I need to chew on them a bit more, but here’s a preview for my next post:
Ephesians 1:3-6 NRSVUE 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,[a]4 just as he chose us in Christ[b] before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us[c] for adoption as his children[d] through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
My mom and sister have a garden. It’s producing beautiful squash, cucumbers, peppers, and more! Folks in the neighborhood all comment on how beautiful it is. And they are right!
The rows are clean.
The plants are huge.
And the “fruit” of their labor is delicious. (I should know, I just had some squash yesterday!)
They have continually cleaned out the weeds in the garden.
They have watered it on a daily basis.
They have consistently given it nutrients.
Simply put, they have cultivated it.
What would happen if they hadn’t done those things?
The garden would produce little to no fruit.
Sure, they might be given some food from the initial planting, but it would be hard to see in the midst of all the weeds. And without water and nutrients, the plants would soon stop producing.
There garden was brought to mind after reading a quote from a pastor I don’t always like to hear preach. But dang…it is good.
“Offended people still may experience miracles, words of utterance, strong preaching, and healing in their lives. But these are gifts of the Spirit, not fruits. We will be judged according to fruit, not gifting. A gift is given. Fruit is cultivated.” ― John Bevere, The Bait Of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense
Offense is something that can affect all of us. It is at the heart of quarrels, big and small. It’s like the weeds in a garden. Once it’s there, it spreads and produces more offense.
But the part of that quote that caught my eye was the last part. “We will be judged according to fruit, not gifting. A gift is given. Fruit is cultivated.”
Dang. That’s deep. I am not sure that I make the distinction between gifts from God and the fruit of the Spirit a lot of times. They merge together in my brain.
And when I read “A gift is given…fruit is cultivated”, I realized it is not a phrase I remember hearing. But when I think about my mama’s garden, I see that truth in action.
Just like my mama and sister cultivate their physical garden, we need to ask God to cultivate the garden of our mind. He plants good seeds in us, but we tend to allow weeds to grow, crowding out and choking the good growth. But our weeds are offense, ignorance, anger, disobedience, lies…and many more! If those things are left to grow, we will not see good fruit. Why? We are nourishing the weeds instead of of cultivating the seeds.
Ever felt a twinge of conscience when you’ve lied or let your anger get the best of you? Kept quiet when you should have spoken up? Have you felt a pang of hurt in your soul when you’ve done something you knew was wrong? Or felt a heaviness in your spirit when you did something that hurt someone else, but you refuse to make it right?
You are not alone! I’m right there with you; I’ve messed up a lot. Matter of fact, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:21-25). There’s no getting around it…if you are a human being, then you have sinned; you have done wrong things that are in contrast and sometimes direct rebellion to God’s holiness and commands. But the good news is this—God is willing and able to forgive: he desires to bring us into right relationship with Him through the blood of his son, Jesus.
So how does He get our attention? Through His Holy Spirit.
“But how?” you might ask.
When we are able to hear and discern that we are doing something that is not in line with God’s will, saying something we should definitely not say, or failing to capture every thought to Christ (2nd Corinthians 10: 3-5)—thus mulling over things that are not true and lead to sin—then we are being given the opportunity to TURN AWAY from those things (repent) and walk with God. We are being poked, prodded, and nudged by God’s Holy Spirit to STOP what we are doing. When we feel uncomfortable with the wrong things we are doing, have done, or are planning to do, then that’s a sign that we are still hearing God’s Spirit speak to us and need to heed the warning.
We are hesitant to heed the warnings and afraid turn to Christ. Why?
Sometimes we are stubborn and simply want what we want. Other times we are concerned about God’s reaction.
BUT Y’all…we should not be afraid!
Because there is NO condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1), and it is for Freedom that He has set us free (Galatians 5:1). When He says He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), then we can believe Him. He cannot lie–it is not in His nature (Hebrews 6:18). And when we believe in Him and trust in Him, we are granted access to the Father (Our Creator), and the abundance of life with Him. (John 14:6, 8-10)
Therefore, the opposite is also true: when we trust our own way instead of His, we are leading ourselves down paths of destruction (Proverbs 14:12).
But if heed the conviction of the Holy Spirit, set our sights on Jesus, repent of our sins, and receive the GIFT of salvation (through grace, not works–so no one can boast; no one can earn it—then He gives us life, and life abundant (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 10:10).
To sum up:
The spiritual conviction we experience from God’s Holy Spirit is a gift. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)
We need to repent in order to walk in and experience the fullness of God’s grace. (1 John 1:9 and Romans 5:20)
Thus, conviction of the Holy Spirit is NOT condemnation…quite the opposite. The conviction of the Holy Spirit shows us His Love for us, His patience, and the goodness of God which leads mean to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
Is there a time you’ve experienced the conviction of the Holy Spirit that stands out in your memory? What did you learn from it?
A sweet friend sends out Bible verses every day and today’s verse is below. It’s hard on the heart.
“He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”
This is a sobering thought, not only for us as individuals…but for us as a nation.
Lord Jesus, forgive us.
America is in dire need of an awakening. We have been in a fog of our making for too long, refusing to step into the light.
Lord, forgive us.
We are hyper-focused on self, yet we disregard the suffering around us and fail to protect for the homeless (as well as those on the brink of homelessness), the orphans, and the widows.
Lord, forgive us.
We set ourselves up as gods, listening only to our own “wisdom”. We follow our “hearts”, leading others to destruction. We ignore the DANGER signs on our journey–that you have graciously given– then continue to fall into pits and shout, “Follow me! This is the way!”
Lord, forgive us.
We divide our families, churches, and communities with our selfish ambition and desire for political gain. We look in a mirror, then walk away forgetting what we’ve seen.
Lord, forgive us.
We cause pain to our neighbors, then blame them.
We lift up ourselves by stepping on the backs of those near us.
We refuse to take out the plank from our own eyes, then pierce others while pointing out the splinters in theirs.
Lord, forgive us.
We are rebellious.
We are prideful.
We want everyone to change…except us.
Lord, forgive us.
You are gracious and kind.
You are merciful in ways we can’t comprehend.
We need you, even when we don’t recognize it.
Lord, forgive us.
Lord, forgive us when we don’t see what is in front of us.
Forgive us when we have grown cold.
Forgive us for losing sight of our first Love.
And soften the soil of our hearts so the Truth can take root and change us.
Lord, don’t let go of us—instead, turn the heart of our nation back to You. Not our own version of you, but YOU. Remind us of your promises. Remind us of our need for you.
Help us to love each other in the way YOU have loved us, willing to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
Help us forgive one another for the harm we have caused each other.
Forgive me, Lord.
Amen and amen
2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
We are all in need of God’s grace, forgiveness, and presence. We have brokenness that needs healing…and He wants to HEAL us.
But do we want to be healed?
John 5: 1-6
After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew[a] Beth-zatha,[b] which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed.[c] One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’
Too often we hold onto our brokenness and make it our identity. We make it some sort of badge of honor. We get so comfortable in being broken that we would rather stay in that place than let God change us, our outlook/perception, and/or our circumstances.
Our disease and brokenness doesn’t make us different…we are all in need of healing in one way or another.
But our identity… it’s supposed to be found in Christ, not in anything or anyone else. When we are in relationship with Him, our focus changes. And when our focus changes, even in the midst of suffering, we are transformed.
Yes, we will all suffer pain, death of loved ones, and sickness at some point in life–that is part of our human experience. But we will also experience joy, success, and other wonderful gifts. But we must be determined to find our identity in Jesus…and Him alone.
When I was going through cancer treatment, one nurse said something that stuck with me. She said something like this…”You have been diagnosed with cancer…but YOU are not cancer.”
That is a huge distinction.
When we see things in our lives that are in need of healing, do we keep our eyes on the healer…or the issue that needs healing? Identifying problems is a good thing…but finding our identity in them is not.
The glorious truth is this: God can and will bring beauty from ashes…but only if we will allow Him to.
to everyone who has read, shared, and/or reviewed Vetted for Murder…
I’ve been doing a happy dance since its October release. You’ve been supportive and encouraging about this first book in the Tori Mulligan Mystery series. And…
yes… I’m working on the 2nd book! The tentative title is Murder in the Heir. I had hoped to have it done by now, but life is far more complicated and busy at times than I anticipate. In the midst of it all, though, God is good and I am thankful for His mercy, grace, and provision!
My kids always ask what I want for Christmas. I give them the SAME answer every time – so this year, I decided to put it into song. Note: you have to sing it to the tune of “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”.
I Want a Clean and Happy House for Christmas
by Donna Earnhardt (me!)
I want a clean and happy house for Christmas
Only a clean and happy house will do
Clutter steals my joy – I lose my peace and poise
I need a clean and happy house that we can all enjoy
I want a clean and happy house for Christmas!
Instead it’s coated in a messy hue
The house needs a scrub – it’s long overdue!
We need a giant breakthrough – can we
get a cleaning crew?
I can see my house on Christmas morning –
No more muddled mess! Oh what…